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KOLD Investigates: How do students plan to recover following the pandemic?

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 5:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s now closer to normal.       

Three Desert View high school students are back on a full campus, even though they’re wearing masks.      

Ariana Zuniga and Madisynn Marsh are juniors. Christopher Flores is a senior.      

They’re relieved to return to campus, at the start of the school year.  However, they’re still navigating the social, emotional and academic rollercoaster ride that no one wanted to jump on. It’s been a long ride, with lots of twists and turns.

“After a year of just constant screens, it just felt amazing to be here. Like I almost cried when I walked through these gates,” Flores said.

Zuniga said she was glad to see her friends in class.

“I know a lot of us were looking forward to seeing each other again,” she said.

But the adjustment back has been jarring. they say. The lost learning time adds up. So the district hit the ground running to help students recover more quickly.

“Oh boy, yeah. We wasted no time in doing that,” Flores said. “Even though the teachers were trying to be sympathetic.”

While the year before this one came with a lot of “busy work,” Zuniga said, she’s now seeing assignments that actually follow a rubric.

“We’re getting essays, we’re getting projects. I have a few exams this week,” Zuniga said. “I worked my butt off to catch up and it was a lot, I’m not gonna lie to you, it was a lot to catch up because online was literally one assignment.”

For Marsh, things have been hectic. She said the first few weeks were exhausting.

“So we came into school, jumped right in, did all six classes for all week. And it was a little crazy, It was a little tiring,” she said.       

They all agree it’s a strain, not only on for them, but on teachers as well. Marsh said she can tell the start of the school year was quote an adjustment for many teachers, who may have gotten used to empty classrooms and working online earlier in the pandemic.

“My typical classroom is very large. I think my smallest class is about 32 students,” she said. “My biggest class is 50, so its definitely back to normal.”

But not one of these teens is complaining. They know what the alternative could be: a return to remote learning.

“If the cases keep going up and we go back online, it’s going to be a pretty dangerous plummet,” Zuniga said. “I don’t want school to shut down.”        

Aespite the massive disruption on these three students’ lives, there’s a big unexpected bright spot. More students, Flores explained, are becoming more resilient.

“And I even talked with my teachers about this and they say, ‘Yeah, like we saw you guys struggle, but coming back from all this, you guys are more mature. You’re a lot more understanding and honestly, a lot more empathetic,’” he said. “And that’s where I’ve really seen that with my friends and just the school in general that we don’t really judge each other as much anymore. We’re opened-minded, at least the people I try to have in my life.”

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.